Opening Remarks by Ambassador NM Sibanda-Thusi at the Meeting of BRICS Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs / International Relations on developments in the Middle East and North Africa, 22 May 2015

Honorouble Ministers;
Your Excellencies;
Ladies and Gentlemen

I would like to express the sincere apologies, on behalf of the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa, MNC Mfeketo, for not being able to travel to the magnificent city of Moscow to attend this meeting.  The Deputy Minister had to attend the Department’s Budget Vote Speech in Parliament, which made it impossible for her to be here on time for this meeting.

The Deputy Minister has requested that I convey the following message on behalf of the South African Government:

I quote:

Thank you Deputy Minister Bogdanov for convening this meeting to give us the opportunity to discuss crises affecting millions of people in the Middle East and North Africa region. 

Ladies and Gentlemen

The year 2014 was an extremely difficult year for the people of Palestine and the peace loving people of the world.  It was also the year that the United Nations had declared to be the International Year of Solidarity with Palestinian People.  However, the Occupying Power in Palestine, Israel, waged a devastating fifty-day war against the People of Palestine.  A war that left more than two thousand innocent civilians dead, and in some instances, whole families were wiped out.  Homes and vital infrastructure were destroyed and families rendered homeless.

We have learned from humanitarian organisations working in Gaza that people in Gaza are yet to rebuild their lives.  It has been reported that about 800 000 people are now living in uninhabitable homes that were destroyed during last year’s 50-day war.  We are appalled that Israel continues with its blockade of Gaza, denying civilians in that region the opportunity to rebuild their shattered lives.  We therefore continue our call to Israel to lift the inhuman blockade of Gaza, which is a blatant violation of human rights of the people of Gaza.

Honourable Ministers, South Africa is concerned with the nature of government that has emerged in Israel after the 17 March elections.  We are deeply worried that Prime Minister Netanyahu has formed a coalition with political parties that have made no secret their opposition to the establishment of a viable Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as the capital along the internationally recognised borders of 1967.  This government has wasted no time and announced approval to build 900 more homes in East Jerusalem.

We are further concerned that new developments in the Middle East region have pushed the issue of the Palestinian question down the priority list, and therefore call on continued support for the People of Palestine in their just struggle for their sovereignty and statehood.  We believe that the Middle East region will remain unstable so long the issue of Palestine is not resolved.

Honourable Ministers, 2014 has not only been difficult to the people of Palestine, but to many other civilians in the Middle East.  The year 2014 was also the year that the so-called Islamic State gained notoriety through committing heinous crimes against innocent civilians.  We condemn in strongest terms all forms of terrorism and extremism.  We therefore call for support for the Governments and People of both Syria and Iraq who are facing this scourge and condemn all supporting the Islamic State.

We are deeply concerned that the Islamic state is now expanding and touching all of us.  In Africa, we have seen the alignment of militant groups such a Boko Haram and El Shabaab with the Islamic State and condemn in strongest terms possible the heinous acts committed by such groups against innocent civilians.  The expansion of the Islamic State is also reaching our homes, with our young people being indoctrinated and recruited through the internet.  We, therefore must work together as the international community to contain and defeat the spread of the Islamic State.

The continued fighting in Syria has resulted in a dire humanitarian situation.  Syrians need to be supported in finding a political solution to their crisis, and in this regard, we express our appreciation to our friends, Russia for providing such support.  We are also pleased with consultations by the United Nations Special Representative to Syria, Mr Staffan De Mistura.  We support all these efforts to return the parties at war in Syria to the negotiating table to achieve an inclusive, lasting and sustainable solution to the conflict in that country.  We urge all external forces to refrain from interfering and exacerbating the situation in Syria.

Honourable Ministers, we are pleased with the positive developments in the negotiations between Iran and P5 countries on the former’s nuclear programme.  We congratulate Iran for its positive attitude in the talks and express our hope that a final comprehensive agreement will be concluded soon.  We re-iterate our position that all parties to the NPT have the inalienable right to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Honourable Ministers, the Government of Iraq also needs to be supported in efforts to rebuild that country.  We believe that a stable Iraq will deny all those who believe in terror and extremism fertile soil to fester and grow. 

We express our deep concern over the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Yemen.  We call for parties to the conflict to engage in efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict.

Honourable Ministers, Friends

As South Africa, we believe in the peaceful resolution of conflicts and hope that working together will bear the necessary fruit.

I thank you



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